What Does It Mean To “Become the Greatest Version of Yourself”?

149346_10151262433633732_40018870_nBy Dwight Stevenson, Syracuse

During my last semester as an undergraduate, I overheard a classmate talking about the new fraternity he and some friends were helping to get started. After talking to him about it after class, I decided to check it out. In our student center were a couple of well-dressed young men standing behind a table covered with a blue Phi Delta Theta cloth, flanked by banners of Lou Gehrig on one side, and Neil Armstrong on the other. As I spoke with the expansion consultants and looked at the materials, my mind kept returning to the tagline “Become the Greatest Version of Yourself.”

When I transferred to Syracuse University in the Spring of 2010, I told myself that I wasn’t going to waste time with extracurriculars, that I was in college for an education and a degree. I didn’t want to pursue anything that was going to hinder my academic performance, and yet, here I was three semesters removed from swearing off extracurriculars, considering a fraternity. From everything I had been told by the consultants and read in the materials, Phi Delta Theta was not just any fraternity, it was a fraternity that wants to help its members achieve excellence in all aspects of life.

What I found locally at New York Epsilon, as well as throughout the fraternity at the Presidents Leadership Conference, General Convention and Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute is a group of young men committed to bettering themselves, their campuses and their communities. I am continuously inspired and challenged to do more and be even better by men I call Brothers in the Bond. During rush last semester I likened my chapter to an incubator of highly motivated people pushing each other to be even more successful, pushing each other to become the greatest version of themselves.

The beautiful thing about our fraternity’s tagline, is the individual nature of it. People often associate conformity and suppression of individuality with Greek organizations, and yet here emblazoned on nearly everything Phi Delta Theta publishes is a tagline urging its membership to develop their own unique, and individual talents. Diversity of individuals and their talents is what has made the United States of America the strong nation that it is today, what made my chapter, New York Epsilon at Syracuse University, the strong chapter that it is, and is also what has made Phi Delta Theta such a strong fraternity.

Becoming the Greatest Version of Yourself requires a certain amount of self-knowledge. What I mean by self-knowledge is knowing what makes you, you. It means knowing your strengths, weaknesses, values and goals. It means knowing the things that will drive you, as well as those that will hold you back. Taking time to develop this self-knowledge through reflection will help you to recognize yourself at present, as well as that greatest version you’d like to become.

Personally, becoming the greatest version of myself meant stepping up to the challenge of being a graduate student, student teacher, and chapter president. These different hats and responsibilities each required vast amounts of time and effort, and yet I still had only 24 hours in a day. I had to learn to manage my time better, to delegate tasks and responsibilities that could be delegated, schedule time for myself and others so as to maintain the personal relationships with friends and family that mean so much to me. By taking the time and figuring out what I value, when time constraints required I give things up, I was able to sacrifice those things that meant the least to me, and focus my time and energy on those that meant the most.

In striving to Become the Greatest Version of Myself, I will never focus on becoming the most amazing basketball player, (my chapter brothers can attest I’m not even close), but rather, I will focus on being the best teacher, mentor, brother, uncle, friend, etc. that I can. The greatest version of myself is inspired by great men and women of the past, teachers I looked up to in school, Brothers in the Bond, my family, and all who help me to strive each day to be even better,  and do even more to be of service to the world.

Dwight Stevenson is a recent graduate of Syracuse University, as well as a Re-Founding Father and former president of the New York Epsilon Chapter.

What Brings Us This Great Distance?

dave_kovacovich_-_head_shotBy David J Kovacovich
January 6, 2013

St. Louis, Missouri
5:00am Central Time

The sun has not yet smiled on the Mid-Western Plains but the airport is filled with men wearing Phi Delta Theta letters over their heart. The Presidents Leadership Conference (PLC) has reached its conclusion, and we are on our way back to our institutions to carry out our leadership mission. Back at my institution, a boy sleeps soundly with his favorite teddy bear under his arm, a little girl dreams of Cinderella, and my wife keeps one eye on her cell phone awaiting my call. It is 3am in California. I do not report to PLC on behalf of a Phi Delt Chapter; I do not work in higher education; I am not a General Headquarters staff member; Nor am I a General Council member. I am simply a man who is proud to be a Phi. At every conference, the undergrads are asked to thank the event faculty for taking time away from work and their families. If the undergrads only knew how grateful we are to have the opportunity to experience the development of their character. Those who do not wear the letters of Phi Delta Theta often ask me why I would travel across the country for a “frat” conference. The answer is simple….

I finished my undergraduate brotherhood experience with Phi Delta Theta in the late 1990s. The experience that I gained from being a chapter president allowed me entrance into the professional field of my choice, a collection of valued lessons to guide my decision making and a large group of friends for life. I left college and began a 15-year commitment to personal and professional development. In my post-graduate life, I had earned exemplary professional accolades, got married, purchased a home, and had welcomed the arrival of 2 beautiful children into this world. Then, I received an email from the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity challenging me to become the greatest version of myself. That was not the message on the cover of our rush manual in the fall of 1992 (designed to resemble the cover of a playboy magazine). The accompanying video explained how we made the hard decision to declare ourselves an alcohol-free housed brotherhood and the new-found mission of our membership. We are now what we had once pretended to be: a character building lifetime commitment. In an effort to honor my commitment, I volunteered to be a faculty member at the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute this past summer. This was not your father’s Phi Delta Theta.

These days, I am pleasantly surprised by the character of our undergraduate members.  Our organization is comprised of men who excel academically, men who are committed to their university and the surrounding community and men who have seized the opportunity to be part of something bigger than they alone strive to be. This is not the entitled generation stereotyped in HR case studies. Our membership is committed to deriving maximum benefit from their college experience.

Phi Delta Theta is a fraternity for life. As such, we are committed to recruiting the men of highest moral character on every campus across the US and into Canada. As alumni, it is incumbent upon us to support our Fraternity’s direction. We should be humbly aware enough to admit that ‘what is’ is as important as ‘what was’ and continue with the mission to recruit members for life. If nothing else, it should be our duty to help young people avoid making the mistakes we may have through our mentorship.

As a faculty member, I have had the opportunity to help our emerging leaders and incoming presidents understand the role that our cardinal principles will play in their development as students, professionals, husbands and fathers. We have explored the transferable social skills that will differentiate our membership from other students as they enter the professional world. The process of teaching serves as a continual reminder of our principles and is never an exhaustive experience. I learn as much as I share with the undergrad members of our Fraternity. I have never been more confident in the future of Phi Delta Theta!

At Phi Delta Theta, we understand that friendships built in the principles of The Bond have lifelong dependency. We understand that learning and educating does not end at graduation. We understand that decision making is the key to success and the right decisions are rooted in our cardinal principles. We understand that hazing serves no purpose except to devalue those we have deemed worthy of wearing our letters over their heart. We understand that the feeling you get from helping others is far more enjoyable than the feeling you get from over-consuming alcohol.

So when my neighbor (who spent just 2 years in active fraternity experience) asks me how the “frat” event was…? I will simply reply, “You wouldn’t understand”!

David Kovacovich (Arizona State ‘97) served as Chapter President and IFC VP of Fraternal Affairs during his undergraduate journey at Arizona State University. Brother Kovacovich has been a faculty member for the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute and Presidents Leadership Conference. He currently serves on the Phi Delta Theta Educational Committee. 

The Year to Become the Greatest Version of Yourself

By Roger Heineken

Very soon young men across North America will begin their odyssey in higher education. Some of these men will join our Phi Delta Theta chapters. What these guys may not fully understand as freshmen will be clearly evident to seniors. During their undergraduate Phi years they will become better men through a genuine commitment to the Bond and Cardinal Principles.

“You will become the greatest version of yourself with self confidence, self pride.” – Josh Sowden, Virginia Theta 2011

Phis serve a dynamic apprenticeship for life.  I like this important quote.

“The Fraternity is a workshop in brains and emotion where one man, in four years, spends an apprenticeship for life.”

Arthur Priest summarized the concept more broadly this way.

“I believe in the college fraternity, creator of friendships. I believe in its quick-sympathies and it’s helping hand. I believe in its brave idealism, stirring every valiant emotion, rousing every potential talent. I believe in its compelling drive for sound scholarship, for genuine culture, for clear-eyed honesty, for business integrity.  I believe in the college fraternity, maker of men.”

Phi Delta Theta has always been a values-based, lifetime association which has helped its members grow since 1848. Over the decades, our fraternity has had no greater emphasis on our ideals than in the last 15 years, with our alcohol-free housing commitment, and with our long-range 2020 plan. I commend our leadership.

Phi Delta Theta cannot exist successfully unless it has deep meaning and recognized value resonating with each individual brother. Graduating seniors understand the intangibles of Phi Delta Theta in a way that freshmen cannot.

Each Phi brother will have a different and personal threshold for growth and development, but through our fraternity, he will come to understand and affirm that he became a better version of himself because of Phi Delta Theta. Greek life is the most comprehensive leadership experience on any campus. Phi Delta Theta is an excellent program, more so today than ever before.

I want to conclude this post by sharing some of what I see Phi Delta Theta gives our undergraduate brothers.

  • Brothers can build personal confidence in a safe environment by trying different leadership strategies in various roles.  There is room to fail and learn. Planning and implementation is universal to professional life and in family life where there may be no room to fail.
  • Brothers will understand what making a life-long commitment really means. This is key to all relationships and marriage but also true in many other avenues of life. Phis will also have greater insight into becoming a nurturing parent gained through pop/son mentoring roles.
  • Graduating brothers will have learned the value of service to community. Service does not end at graduation. Vibrant communities rise by the service and leadership of the citizens who reside in them. Many employers expect community service. Phi Delta Theta prepares our brothers to lead and make a difference locally, regionally, and nationally.
  • Brothers will assemble a toolbox of leadership skills to enable them to apply what they learn in the classroom. Too many professionals move up into leadership without appropriate skills to maximize effectiveness. The skill-set can be a competitive edge in the job market. It underpins the good GPA. This can help you stand out and elevate you to finalist status. All this happens because you know you better.
  • Brothers will develop better interpersonal skills and broaden the scope of friendships beyond the generationally-bound high school experience. Life after college will include associations with a broad range of generations, cultures and circumstance.
  • Brothers will have a developed sense of right and wrong. Phi Delta Theta produces ethically cognitive brothers for career and personal life. In our world today, we so need more people with rectitude and moral bearing.

For Phis across North America another year is here. Build deep, lifelong friendships in your higher education odyssey as you become the greatest version of yourself.

Roger Heineken (Emporia State) is a past chapter adviser for Kansas Epsilon and has recently returned to a informal weekly role in support of the chapter and undergraduates after a 14 year hiatus. He is the 1989 recipient of the Samuel V. Stone Adviser of the Year Award.

The Power of a Simple Thank You

By Steve Good

I had a really good day the other day.  It was one of those days that caused me to think about those people in my life who somehow made an impact on why the day was such a good one.  It would have been very easy for me to just go about my business that day, but I felt compelled to sit down, take 15 minutes, and send an email to a former professor, thanking him for sparking one of my interest. Now, I’m not writing this post to gloat about my good deed, rather, the response that I received from the professor made me think about how easy it is to make somebody’s day.

Response from my email – “Thank you so much for your email.  I cannot express how much your kind words meant to me. You made my day.”

It’s easy for many of us to forget to thank the people that have helped us out along the way, but “Becoming the Greatest Version of Yourself” is dependent on the support, assistance and guidance of others – You know, the whole “One Man is No Man” thing.  Your greatest version includes the ability to identify the people who have been positive influences in your life and makes it a priority to let them know this.  While written thank you cards are a nice touch, I believe that a thank you can be given in many ways: Phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook/Twitter posts, etc.  I also believe that the most impactful thank you does not involve a gift.  The power of the written, typed or spoken word brings more meaning than a tangible gift.

So here’s my challenge to you.  Sit down today, make a list of five people who have been of positive influence to you, and thank them.  Here’s where you can start:

  • Thank your parents – Think of the selflessness your parents have given to allow you to succeed.  I believe this deserves a thank you. If your parents have not been supportive in your goals, thank those who have.  While I can’t speak from experience, I’m going to go out on a limb and state that there is no greater feeling for a parent than when his or her son or daughter says thank you.
  • Thank a professor, educator or mentor that has sparked an interest in your life – Educators are some of the most underpaid and undervalued people in our world, yet they commit themselves to seeing others succeed.  Think about those teachers in your life who went the extra mile to help you learn or find direction. My wife used to work in a Greek-life office on a college campus, and I vividly remember the days when she would come home and read me the kind words of others.  It energized her and helped her realize that what she was doing added value to others.
  • Thank a colleague or a fellow Phi Delt – No matter if you’re in the workplace or the Fraternity house, there are people around you who encourage your success.  If you have colleagues, thank the ones who have helped you grow professionally.  If you’re still in college, thank those peers who have encouraged you to get involved in something that’s important to you.
  • Thank somebody who constantly provides a service to you – Think of how many times each week another individual is providing a service to you.  Whether it’s your Starbucks barista, the guys at the shop who change the oil in your car or the waiter/waitress who makes great effort to keep you happy during your lunch hour, I can promise that you will make somebody’s day if you go out of your way to say thanks for their great service.  It doesn’t happen often in their world.
  • Thank your wife, husband, partner or significant other – The people who we take for granted the most are generally those individuals who are by our side the most.  The day-to-day grind many times gets in the way of life’s greatest purpose, building meaningful relationships.  Make an effort today to show your significant others that you are grateful to be with them.

I can promise two things from completing this exercise.  You will not only make somebody else’s day, but you will also make your own day.  That is the power of a simple thank you.

After spending time as a Leadership Consultant, Director of Expansion and Director of Education & Technology, Steve is now the Director of Communications & Iron Phi for the Fraternity. He spent his undergraduate days at Iowa State University and completed his MBA at Xavier University. Steve was recently named an Iowa Statement Maker by the Iowa State Alumni Association for his work on the Iron Phi program. Brother Good recently launched a small business (GrassrootGive) that specializes in creating grassroots fundraising programs for non-profits and corporations. Steve enjoys sports of all sorts, traveling, photography, running, attempting to find the best burger, reading, accumulating bobbleheads and trying to keep up with his two ridiculous dogs. Steve and his wife Tillie live in Ames, Iowa.

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Phi Delt and the Social Animal

By Sean Wagner, Associate Executive Vice President

While on vacation with my wife earlier this year I was 326 pages into The Social Animal  by David Brooks when a concept called Social Mobility was introduced.  I was familiar with this concept from my days in college, grad school and on the news but never considered the direct application to Phi Delta Theta.  It’s actually a fairly hot topic now as the “great divide” between the wealthy and middle class is harped on in political debates and by pundits on broadcasts.  Essentially, it’s the concept that birth should not equal destiny and that certain opportunities can be provided to balance that out.

Then about a month later, I was presented with our initial core brand concept of “Greatness” from Pocket Hercules, our branding agency and with our new tagline, “Become the greatest version of yourself.”  I realized that there was quite a bit of synergy to these two concepts but in our case, social mobility is provided very simply through a Phi Delt experience.  We aren’t talking about the difference between the impoverished and the wealthy.  Instead, we are talking about the opportunity to enhance a college experience, improving an individual’s overall potential during their college years and the ramifications for success in their adult life.

By becoming a Phi Delt, an individual is given the following:

  1. Access to like-minded individuals who strive for success through the values they commit to in their Fraternity experience
  2. A social experience that is a great “living laboratory” that promotes personal and professional development

When we say “Become the greatest version of yourself,” this is what we really mean.   We have members that come from many different “walks of life”; however, they are attracted to our chapters by meeting like-minded individuals who are bound by common values.  Then, through their fraternal experience, our members are afforded an opportunity to leverage these relationships and experiences into an enhanced trajectory for their lives and careers not offered in any other collegian organization.

This experience is why you hear all of the stats regarding fraternity and sorority members as the world’s leaders. Within Phi Delta Theta, we have had eight Pulitzer Prize Winners, three Astronauts, one VP and one President of the United States amongst many other Famous Phis!

The term “elitist” is often associated with fraternities and sororities.  The reality is that the only thing here that is elite is our values.    Phi Delta Theta was founded on friendship, sound learning and rectitude but all other Greek organizations are founded on very similar concepts of brotherhood/sisterhood, academics and service.  Those who commit to these values, commit to one another and to live by them.

The practical application is how we define ourselves when communicating the benefits of membership. Rather than talking about this vast intangible alumni network and vague opportunity to lead, you can talk about expererience between you and your brothers and how you can grow and thrive within the context of the chapter.  Describe your interaction with alumni who have been willing to offer an internship or job, with chapter brothers who have culturally enriched one another’s lives by sharing interests and about your brothers who have fully embraced their chapter leadership opportunities, leading them to other roles on campus and beyond.

We always define ourselves as a social Fraternity based on interactions with our pledge class, big brother and favorite sorority. Having said that, it may be time to start challenging ourselves and realize that being a member of a social fraternity actually defines who we are individually well beyond our college years as we aspire to become the greatest possible version of ourselves.

Sean has been a member of the Fraternity’s GHQ staff for over eight years serving as a Leadership Consultant, Director of Expansion, Director of Alumni Services, and is currently the Associate Executive Vice President. Sean graduated from Widener University (PA Mu) with a Communications Degree in 2002 and received his Masters in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management from Northern Kentucky University in 2009. A native of Philadelphia, Sean currently resides in Suburban Cincinnati with his wife Michelle where he also serves as a board member of the Inner City Tennis Project, an organization that teaches health and life lessons through the sport of tennis, is an avid Philly sports fan, and even in a work stoppage is a member of the Who Dey Nation.

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